English Premiership

City solidify top-four place

2016-04-23 15:59
Kelechi Iheanacho (Supplied)

Cape Town - Manchester City have re-opened a five-point gap over arch-rivals Manchester United in fifth place as they try to secure Champions League football for the arrival of incoming manager Pep Guardiola.

Manuel Pellegrini certainly had one eye on Real Madrid next week as captain Vincent Kompany and the in-form Kevin de Bruyne were both replaced in the starting eleven against a Stoke side missing Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay.

Aguero brought the crowd to life in the sixth minute with a sharp turn inside from the right flank. He helped the ball onto the recalled Iheanacho who was a whisker away from finding the bottom left corner.

Stoke forced a mini-spell of pressure 10 minutes later when an uncertain Joe Hart parried over a long-range free-kick before Ryan Shawcross dragged his shot wide from the resulting corner.

Man City continued to dominate possession but found it difficult to break down the visiting Potters until the 35th minute when Fernando rose above his man to head the hosts into the lead from a corner.

The advantage increased further just before the break when Shawcross clumsily brought down Iheanacho when the striker was trying to finish off a quick one-two inside the area.

Aguero then stepped up and stroked the ball expertly into the left corner to provide the Citizens with added comfort heading into the second half.

Stoke goalkeeper Shay Given was forced off at the interval with a groin injury, meaning Jakob Haugaard was thrown into action again after recently being dropped.

His first task, though, was to watch teammate Marko Arnautovic fluff his lines from close range at the other end of the pitch as the Potters began the second half with a surprise counter attack.

The move was the catalyst of a tricky period for Manchester City who struggled initially to assert any sort of authority in the second half.

Mame Biram Diouf came close with a header which rippled into the side-netting, before Joe Hart made a stunning save to deny Arnautovic minutes later.

Any hope of Stoke City claiming at least a point from the game was then dashed by Iheanacho who tapped home in the 68th minute with the goal at his mercy after Pablo Zabaleta roasted the right wing.

Iheanacho then went on to bag a brace after he zoomed in on goal with a darting run and proceeded to round Haugaard before prodding the ball beyond the whitewash.

The game ended on a slightly sour note for the Champions League semi-finalists as Yaya Toure hobbled around in the final stages with a suspected thigh injury.

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